HSBC shuts down accounts linked to Gupta front companies - reports

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Cape Town – HSBC said on Friday that it “has been reviewing its exposure to the Guptas for some time, and has closed a number of accounts for associated front companies wherever we have found them”, according to reports by the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and Morningstar.

The announcement follows a Wall Street Journal story on Friday, in which it revealed how it reviewed documents that showed that the Guptas had used HSBC bank accounts in Dubai to transfer money through firms linked to suspected kickbacks for the sale of Chinese locomotives in 2013.

This follows the #GuptaLeaks emails, in which AmaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism exposed emails leaked from Guptas email servers.

These emails revealed that over R10m worth of the R50m that South Africa is paying for each CSR locomotive would be diverted to an offshore company controlled by Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa. These kickback agreements totalled R5.3bn, AmaBhungane reported.

Earlier this month, Peter Hain, a Labour Party member of the House of Lords in the UK, asked the authorities to investigate a UK bank – which was later revealed as HSBC – for "possible criminal complicity," after it allegedly failed to take action on internal concerns about suspicious transactions related to the Guptas.

"Undoubtedly hard questions will need to be asked of the facilitating banks, because they have aided and abetted the Gupta money laundering activities," Hain told parliament.

"Can the Chancellor please ensure that such evident money laundering and illegality is not tolerated and that the bank is investigated for a possible criminal complicity over this matter? Urgent action is needed to close down this network of corruption."

HSBC has denied that it sanctioned money laundering, while the Guptas have previously denied wrongdoing.

- Additional reporting by Bloomberg.

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